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F1 Testing: Day 3 Analysis

By Mav | 4 Mar 2012 | 2 Comments | 6,455 views

Sergio Pérez topped the timesheets on the penultimate day of testing in Barcelona that was interrupted by rain towards the end of the session. The Sauber driver set a lap time of 1 minute 22.094 on Pirelli’s soft tyre compound – three tenths slower than the time that put him quickest on Day 3 of last year’s test at the Circuit de Catalunya. Meanwhile, as if to illustrate the meaningless of the fastest laps tables, Lotus went from heading the previous two days to languishing at the bottom – and by some margin.

Hydraulic and steering problems for McLaren and Lotus, respectively, limited their track time, as did set-up work at Red Bull as Mark Webber put a substantially updated RB8 through its paces. However, that allowed the midfield teams to hog the track with Sauber, Force India, Toro Rosso and Williams running race simulations. The rain curtailed the runs of Sergio Pérez, Paul di Resta and Bruno Senna, although the latter pair were only a couple of laps short of completing a race distance. Daniel Ricciardo, however, bravely battled on, gaining some valuable experience on the intermediate tyres for the last ten laps of his “race”
 
Sauber Motorsport AG
 
The lap times for the Force India, Sauber, Toro Rosso and Williams race simulations are shown below as they ran the full 66 lap race distance. It should be noted that the lap times towards the end of the run rapidly increase as rain started to fall (the end of Ricciardo’s simulation, run in the wet on intermediate tyres, is not shown for clarity.)

Tyre Strategy:
Force India di Resta Soft Soft Medium Soft Medium
Sauber Pérez Soft Medium     Medium     Medium      
Toro Rosso     Ricciardo     Soft*     Soft Soft Soft Intermediate
Williams Senna Soft Soft Medium Medium  

*There is some uncertainty about the tyre compound used on Daniel Ricciardo’s first stint as Pirelli have supplied a number of unmarked tyres (manufactured at an alternative factory, Pirelli are checking consistency in case production has to be switched). However, the soft compound appears to fit the observed lap times suggesting that Toro Rosso intended to do the entire “simulation” on softs.

Viva F1

At first glance, Sauber appear to be around a second, second-and-a-half quicker than their rivals. However, it is possible that they started their simulation at the beginning of the second stint, perhaps in anticipation of rain. The fact that they finished short of the full race certainly doesn’t dispel this theory and Sauber have seemed careful to avoid referring to their afternoon run as a race simulation – it’s noteworthy that Sauber’s lap times would then fall roughly in line with the others.

With the above consideration taken into account, the four teams appear closely matched although Williams appear to be slightly behind and Sauber slightly ahead, in terms of pace. Tyre preservation was not particularly impressive – hence three/four stop strategies – suggesting that Pirelli have been successful in making the teams’ lives difficult in the name of entertainment, at least for now. However, Williams look the strongest in this area – twenty laps on the medium compound in their third stint standing out even if Senna was almost three seconds slower by the end of it than he was on fresh rubber. Nevertheless, that meant one less stop – potentially off-setting what they may lack in pace, in the battle for midfield honours.

Elsewhere, Ferrari have set tongues wagging by cancelling all driver interviews for the rest of the test amid growing speculation that the team is struggling and suggestions that Ferrari want to avoid their pilots having to answer uncomfortable questions.

Still, it’s not as bad as at HRT. The Spanish outfit will yet again head to the opening race with no testing of their new car under their belt.

Related Links
F1 Testing: Day 1 Analysis
F1 Testing: Day 2 Analysis
F1 Testing: Day 4 Analysis

Credit: Sauber Motorsport AG

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